The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) released a new report this month, which focused on High-Rise Building Fires. For the purposes of this report, a high-rise building was defined as a building more than 75 feet in height, measured from the lowest level of fire department vehicle access to the floor of the highest occupiable story. A height of 75 feet can usually be translated to seven stories.

The NFPA report found that between the years of 2005-2009, fire departments in the United States responded to an average of 15,700 high-rise building structure fires, which caused an annual average of 53 civilian fire deaths, 546 civilian fire injuries, and $235 million in direct property damage. Approximately half of these high-rise building structure fires occurred in four types of facilities: apartments; hotels; buildings caring for the sick; and offices. In addition, structure fires in these four property categories resulted in approximately $99 million in direct property damage per year. However, NFPA found that the risk of fire, fire-related deaths, and fire-related property damage tends to be lower in these particular high-rise facility categories than their shorter counterparts. This could be attributed to a higher use of wet pipe sprinklers and fire detection equipment use in high-rise buildings.

The report also showed that most high-rise building fires begin on the first six floors, with only a fraction of fires beginning on floors seven or higher. In addition, the risk of a fire starting is greater on the lower floors of apartments, hotels, and facilities that care for the sick, but greater on the upper floors of office buildings.